August 24, 1975: Queen Begin ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

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Queen-Bohemian-Rhapsody-114937_7585It is a work of astonishing complexity: a song by a rock band with six discrete and very different sections. And unlike just about every significant radio song that came before it, Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” has no chorus. One could call it the apogee of progressive rock, but there is far more than just that going on in its five minutes and 55 seconds.

Recording began at Rockfield Studios in Wales on August 24, 1975, and four other studios were used before the song was completed. The a cappella opening vocals and harmonies were the result of 10-12 hours of singing a day. All told, the song took three weeks to finish, utilized 180 overdubs, and was the most expensive single ever made to date.

It was released on October 31, 1975, three weeks before the album, A Night at the Opera. By the end of the year it topped the U.K. chart for a nine-week run. In the U.S. it only reached #9. Yet by all common wisdom of the time it was anything but radio friendly. (In 1991, following writer and singer Freddie Mercury’s death, it soared back to #1 in U.K. for a five-week stretch. The following year it returned to the American Hot 100 and topped out at #2 thanks to its pivotal position in the movie Wayne’s World.)

It is an almost indescribable work of music, maybe best summarized as a mini-rock operetta, though that still doesn’t encompass it all. It is bombastic, parodic and one could even say pretentious yet at the same time deadly serious, delectably playful, tough yet tender and both classicist and hard rocking, depending on what part you are listening to.

In the end it is certainly as rhapsodic as a song could ever be. Ultimately “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of classic rock music’s most stunning musical achievements in a single song and a formidable monument to the ingenious creative imagination of the late Freddie Mercury.

Related: Queen film “Bohemian Rhapsody” video

The Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody from Twentieth-Century Fox, is scheduled for release on Oct. 24 in the U.K. and Nov. 2 in the U.S.

Watch the Bohemian Rhapsody film trailer

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